Access your Mac’s Desktop and Documents folders from anywhere
For a long while, Apple pushed back against traditional file systems. On iOS, documents only lived ‘inside’ apps. With iCloud, cross-device syncing worked well when using the same app on iPad, iPhone and Mac. However, when using multiple apps, you had to copy documents between them; this often resulted in many part-finished files strewn across devices.
With iCloud Drive’s introduction, Apple added a more typical file system to the core iOS experience, and made it accessible on Macs and iOS devices. You can delve into app-specific folders, but also add folders of your own, just like in Finder on a Mac. Now, with the release of macOS Sierra, Apple is making a particularly audacious move regarding iCloud Drive, enabling you to keep your Mac’s Desktop and Documents folders on iCloud Drive.
The option to do this is provided when you first set up macOS Sierra, but you can turn it on later in System Preferences’ iCloud pane: click on Options next to iCloud Drive, and in the Documents tab put a check mark next to ‘Desktop & Documents Folders’. When this feature is active, Desktop and Documents appear in the iCloud section of Finder’s sidebar (you can move them back to Favorites if you want), and the documents stored in those places will be available everywhere.
And we mean everywhere. On an iOS device, you can open iCloud Drive (which in some versions may require an app that includes its own Document Picker, or going to Settings > iCloud > iCloud Drive and switching on ‘Show on Home Screen’). Among Macs using the same Apple ID and with the same settings, your documents will sync in the background. On a Mac running an older operating system, you’ll find your files in the Desktop and Documents folders within iCloud Drive. When using a non-Apple device, access them in the iCloud Drive web app at iCloud.com.
Will it fit you well?
Regarding the specific folders that sync, Apple reasons they’re the most common places for saving files; also, images and other media are already catered for by existing iCloud services. There are, however, some snags to be mindful of before jumping in. First, there’s no granularity whatsoever at this time. The feature is either on or off. If you like the idea of syncing your Desktop but not Documents, tough. Secondly, if you regularly work with massive media files (such as Photoshop documents, audio recordings or video), be wary of slowing down your internet connection to a crawl as your devices try to sync huge documents with iCloud Drive.
Finally, whatever you store in iCloud Drive eats into your iCloud storage plan. By default, Apple gives you just 5GB for free, which disappears rapidly with a couple of iOS device backups, let alone when syncing all manner of documents from your Mac. That said, the convenience of more easily accessing files will for many be worth a few quid each month.
It’s an audacious move of Apple to put these crucial folders in iCloud